Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:11
My father lay propped up in the hospital bed, his face ashen against the white sheets.
My stepmother and I huddled around him in the cramped space of the progressive care unit in which he recuperated. He had suffered three heart attacks in the space of one month. None of us had slept much in the last few days. So far, we had seen little of either the hospitalist in charge of his care or the cardiologist on staff.
We waited all day for the cardiologist. Finally, he appeared, towering above us in his long white lab coat. His aggressive stance, scowl, stethoscope dangling around his neck kept us adequately reminded of his importance as he recited the results of Dad’s tests in rapid-fire secession.
Mentally, he had already left the room for the next patient.
When he took a breath, I ventured a question about one of my father’s lab results. Angered that I dare speak, he shot me down in a spray of loud verbal bullets. I was embarrassed into shocked silence.
I drove home from the hospital totally disheartened, my humiliation churning into anger as the weight of the last month’s struggles crashed down upon me.
Since I had missed lunch, I turned into a local fast-food restaurant and eased into the line at the drive thru. Ahead of me sat a big white four-wheel drive pickup with huge tires. Behind the wheel sat a young Native American man in sunglasses. Emblazoned across the tinted back window of his rig were the words, “REZNECKS.” I smiled, having lived on the reservation for most of my life. The knot in my stomach began to ease as I waited impatiently to get back on the road toward home and my refuge.
When my turn finally came to pick up my meal, the server was beaming. “I have the pleasure of telling you that the man in the white pickup ahead of you has paid for your meal,” she said. “He just wanted me to tell you to have a good day.”
What a beautiful God we serve. I cried all the way home.
Our English word encourage comes from the French word encoragier, which means to make strong or to impart courage.
In a world that values aggression, God calls us to kindness. As the conduit connecting God to His beloved creation, our job in this space in time is to inspire others to greatness. We hold in our hands the power to bring renewed hope to others who are having the life choked out of them. One generous moment can rebuild someone’s world and impart the courage to go on another day.
Yes, I paid for the meal of the man in the car behind me that day. I’m asking God to grant me the grace to extend kindness to people who are hard to like, much less love. And I pray God will remind me to take my eyes off my own troubles long enough to notice others around me and to seize the opportunities He gives me to be an encourager.